WOOF Project is back at Nobel Square

As WOOF Project returns for its weekend pop-ups at the V&A Waterfront from September, Joanne Lefson, Director of Oscars Arc, the NPO behind the initiative, shares some stories behind this incredible way to adopt a dog.

Where did the idea for WOOF Project originate?
I adopted a dog called Oscar from a local shelter in 2004, and we travelled around the world together. That dog changed my life. Oscar was the most brilliant best friend I could ever have asked for. He passed away in 2013, and it then took me a few years to develop the organisation, which I opened in 2017. It was my wish that everybody would come to know the benefits of adopting a great dog from a shelter.

How is WOOF Project different to visiting a dog shelter?
Many people struggle to go to shelters. With WOOF Project, we take the dogs out of these depressing, difficult-to-find locations and take them to the people, placing them in a positive environment. It’s a happy place to come to and no one feels sorry for the dogs. Everyone engages with them in a normal, natural environment – a nice, convenient location to visit, like the Waterfront.

Talk us through the easy steps to adopt one of your dogs.
People come and look at the dogs and fill out an application (which they can also do online). We aim to do a home check on the same day, because the faster we move a dog out, the faster we can bring another dog in from an overcrowded shelter, whose life may depend on that move. Once the home check is approved, the dog can be collected as soon as possible. We also have a return policy. If, for some reason, the dog doesn’t work out, we take the dog back without any attitude – it’s all about making sure people give the dog a chance in their home.

Your dogs are vaccinated, microchipped and sterilised. Why is this important?
We want to place a healthy dog in the home, and sterilisation is key to stopping the over-population of dogs. If every dog was sterilised we probably wouldn’t need shelters. We’ve got so many dogs but not enough homes, and that leads to unnecessary euthanasia. A dog that is given with those three items means you get more quality time with your dog right from the start.

The pictures on your website give such great personality to your dogs. What made you follow this marketing approach?
Typically dogs from shelters look sad. WOOF Project is almost like a marketing platform to inspire adoption – to make the underdog the top dog; to make shelter dogs cool and sexy. So we give these dogs superhero or famous names because it lifts their stature. A picture can make a dog stand out, and a positive, happy dog is going to get a home a lot faster than one that looks depressed and crouched over.

How many adoptions have you facilitated?
Nearly 3,600. On average we do 19.5 adoptions a weekend – something that is unprecedented in animal welfare. In 2019 we achieved a World Record for the most adoptions in one day. We had 56!

What are the different ways in which people can assist you?
We love and appreciate all our volunteers. On our website people can complete a very brief form to sign up for any shift that suits them. People can also make a donation to the organisation; or can sign up to foster a dog. Fostering enables us to assist dogs who might need some home time to build up some confidence. It also helps if we’ve got too many dogs in our centre – then, when shelters do a special cry-out for us to help them, we can facilitate those extra dogs by putting them in foster homes.

Any past highlights from the WOOF Project pop-ups at the V&A Waterfront?
We love going to the Waterfront because we always bump into celebrities who come and play with our dogs. We’ve also done around 25 international adoptions from people who visit the Waterfront, fall in love with a dog and end up flying the dog back to their country. Our dogs have gone to Canada, USA, UK, Germany and Switzerland – and that all happens at the Waterfront because of the amazing diversity that it attracts. It’s also great to be at the Waterfront because our volunteers get to enjoy great meals from the food market while working.

WOOF Project will happen every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9am – 5pm, starting 4 September
Location: Nobel Square, next to the V&A Waterfront Food Market